The Digital Workplace
As a digital workplace consultant, I often get asked “What is the digital workplace?”. The workplace used to be somewhere you went every day, sat in your cubicle, or office if you were lucky, and did your day job. Today everything has changed, partly because of the pandemic, but mostly because the technology has evolved. No longer chained to a desk, with a cumbersome PC tethered to the wall by its power and data umbilicus. Modern smartphones are more powerful and user friendly than the average office PC was less than a decade ago. The digital workplace has been born, it’s fast, dynamic, connected, friendly and productive. Enabling our next generation of workers to be freed from the drudgery of the cubicle. Free them from the desk and enable them to be creative, innovative and collaborate with their colleagues anywhere and at any time.
The digital workplace is not any single thing, it’s a philosophy – a new way of working. In the digital workplace, you are always connected. Giving you the capability to work from anywhere, at any time and be your most productive. You have the ability to collaborate with your colleagues in new ways, not just in person but remotely. It allows your business to become truly global, even for small businesses. With that global outlook, you benefit from the diversity of different cultures and gain access to new markets.
What’s wrong with the old way?
Nobody says there is anything wrong with the old way, but by definition, it is the “old way”. The world moves on, relentlessly forging towards the “new way”. It’s in our nature to want to improve, be more efficient, faster, stronger and better. The digital workplace is an enabler, utilising technology to make work more productive and life more fulfilling for workers.
Competitors may be using faster, or more reliable, messaging technologies. Enabling them to respond to sales enquiries quicker and more effectively than you. Customers may be demanding electronic invoicing, or visibility of a project plan. Employees may be expecting to be able to work remotely and flexibly.
If your business doesn’t keep up, or lead the way. Competitors will outcompete you. Customers will buy from businesses that provide what they want. Employees will leave to work somewhere that allows them to work how they want to. Then your business is in a downward spiral to oblivion.
Ok, so maybe not to oblivion – but I think you get the point. If you stand still everyone will pass you by.
Your digital workplace journey
If you’re running a business in the 21st century, then you will almost certainly be on the digital workplace journey. You’ll already be using email, messaging, some cloud storage, maybe even video conferencing. We measure how far you have travelled as your organisation’s digital maturity. Digital maturity provides a good indicator of where your business has gaps and where it has forged ahead. While there are no hard and fast rules, it is generally considered best to even out your digital journey across all the competencies.
virtco® Consulting digital maturity assessment
To help you determine your business’s digital maturity, we have a short assessment you can complete. Once you have submitted the form we will send back a report showing where you are along your digital journey. The report will highlight areas your business needs to focus on in the short term to become more balanced and will provide a longer-term roadmap to help you plan for the future.
Hybrid digital workplace
I think everyone in business is sick of hearing the terms “the new normal” or “re-imagining the workplace”. They’ve become the clichés of 2021, and largely they are unhelpful. The post-pandemic workplace is certainly going to be different, but a large part of the shift was already taking place before the pandemic struck in 2020. The technology was already starting to enable the digital workplace and facilitate hybrid work styles. The pandemic simply brought it into focus and accelerated the change.
When I first registered the virtco® domain name back in November 2005, I was already thinking about the virtual corporation. It’s taken 16 years for the concept to become mainstream. In the meantime we have demonstrated that it’s possible to work fully digital, only meeting in person when that’s something we want to do for our need to make a real human connection.
Of course, there are some businesses and business functions that can’t be made digital. Well, at least not without spending a small fortune on robotics and process automation. For example, a small business that sells bespoke furniture can’t rely on a totally digital workforce. At the most basic level, they need to come to a workshop and perform manual tasks. However, even this example can digitalize its sales processes, procurement, accounting, design, HR and training and that’s where the hybrid digital workplace fits in. Some analogue tasks remain in your business, but where possible make the rest of it digital. Gaining the benefits of being digital, such as a reduced property footprint, decarbonisation, faster and more agile business processes, and a more globalised and flexible workforce.
Hybrid meeting experience
Since the pandemic struck in 2020, the office workers who started to work remotely have become used to online meeting tools delivering a great meeting experience. With their video conferencing, digital whiteboards, collaborative file sharing and instant messaging systems. Now they’re coming back into the office, they find outdated meeting room technology. Existing meeting rooms with analogue conferencing phones, which let’s face it was never a great experience. They have a smudgy whiteboard with dried up markers. There’s a flipchart in the corner with half a piece of paper left on it. They can’t get wifi to work in the room, and there’s one network port in the corner.
You can easily picture the scenario. The response from your employees will be “We were better off sitting on the sofa at home!”. The response from your clients will be “What the hell was that!”.
The solution is to adopt a new style of digital meeting. Leveraging the new digital workplace technologies to create a hybrid meeting experience that works for both your employees and your customers. We have a hybrid meetings accelerator that provides businesses with a simple setup and best practice solution to create a great meeting experience every time.
What does good look like?
There are four pillars that enable a good digital workplace strategy; people, technology, control and value. When you have your strategy in place, and it’s aligned with your business vision, that’s when you start to see the real benefits of the digital workplace.
|Collaborate – Communicate – Connect||Digital Workplace Toolbox||Governance – Compliance – Security||Measurable Business Benefits|
|People work best when they collaborate, communicate and connect with others. The goal is to enable productive business relationships within and beyond existing workgroups and to enable knowledge sharing across the business.||Technology enables the digital workplace. The tools you have available in your toolbox, and how well they work together defines how effective your people can be. The key is to adopt the right set of tools for your people.||You need to control how your digital workplace technologies are used. Appropriate governance, compliance and security must be in place so that your business complies with legislation|
and industry regulations.
|There is no point in implementing digital workplace technologies that don’t provide a measurable benefit to the business. Increased sales, decreased costs, and increased productivity are all benefits you should measure.|
Good makes your business look like a well-oiled engine, where everything is running smoothly and all the parts mesh together driving you forwards in the direction of your vision.
Good for your people
The people who make up a business define that business, they are at the heart of everything the business does. They need to be able to collaborate effectively and work together. Communication is a cornerstone of how people work as a team. People also have a basic human need to connect with other people, both on a professional level and at a personal level. All this feeds into their personal wellbeing, their mental health as well as their physical health. Your business strategy should include more than just productivity and business benefits but also include looking after your people.
Understanding how your employees like to work enables your business to develop a change management plan and digital workplace strategy that aligns with both your business goals and your people’s working culture.
You need to be careful that your people don’t become overwhelmed with too much change, too many meetings and calls. They need the headspace to get the work done.
Good technology choices
What tools you put in your digital workplace toolbox will largely depend on what your business does. In general, you need a mixture of tools, and you want to make sure that you think of your business digital strategy holistically. There are eight key focus areas:
- Messaging – providing fast ways to communicate with your people (email, instant messaging, mobile messaging)
- Productivity – supporting people to get their jobs done efficiently (wordprocessing, spreadsheets, presentations)
- Collaboration – enabling teams to work together internally and externally (team spaces, co-authoring, online conferencing)
- Communication – internal information sharing and publishing (intranet, blogs, wikis)
- Business applications – internal and external business applications (ERP/accounting, expenses, HR, CRM)
- Ideation – gathering ideas, identifying problems and finding solutions (whiteboarding, polls, forums)
- Connectivity – being able to find the right people within your business (employee directory, org chart, skills matrix)
- Mobility – enabling access to tools and systems from anywhere (laptop, tablet, mobile, remote working)
The technology your business chooses to put in your digital workplace toolbox needs to support all eight of those key focus areas. Those tools need to work together seamlessly and reliably. But, above all, those tools need to be easy for your people to adopt.
Good for control
Many businesses and organisations fail to look at governance, compliance and security controls. We often see them in the news, they’re the businesses that get hit with a cyberattack and subsequently fail. They’re the businesses that receive huge fines from government regulators. They’re the businesses that get bad press after whistleblowers blow the whistle on the business’s wrongdoings.
Good business governance is not just about putting IT controls in place. It’s about building an inclusive, diverse and people-centric culture. Nobody goes to work to do a bad job, it’s the environment they find themselves in that leads to cutting corners and not being diligent in what they do.
Compliance is in most cases a legal requirement. Businesses in the global economy must pay attention to compliance and regulatory systems from jurisdictions other than their own. Harnessing modern digital workplace tools helps to achieve the right level of compliance for your business. But, if you ignore the warning indicators you could end up with big fines, or even a custodial sentence.
Security controls underpin the entire system, what the digital workplace brings is great flexibility to work anywhere at any time. Data loss prevention and information protection rely on security controls to ensure company intellectual property isn’t lost or stolen. Security protects your business from cyberattacks and breaches of regulations as a result. Security allows your people to feel comfortable that they are being protected.
Good for business value
By connecting employees beyond the boundaries of their geographies or departments, the digital workplace empowers your people to direct their efforts from the bottom up, build communities of interest, drive knowledge management and collaborate in ways that make sense to them and deliver measurable business value.
By the adoption of digital workplace tools and methods, you gain measurable business value. Three key areas deliver business value – increased sales, decreased costs, and increased productivity.
Other areas of the business also see the increased value. From things like talent recruitment and improved retention. Better communications and collaboration helps to drive ideation and innovation when developing new products or services. To things like improved organisational agility. Enabling your business to rapidly scale up and down to meet seasonal demand or take advantage of new opportunities.
Help employees to identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, as they are working with customers, by providing them with tailored applications. Taking out slack in the sales cycle, and putting actionable information at the employee’s fingertips. Improve the customer experience by ensuring that customer-facing employees have the information they need instantly available. Allowing them to serve customers more quickly, efficiently or effectively.
Digital workplace tools excel at reducing operational costs. By providing ways to meet online you remove the need for travel, taking out the direct travel expense costs, and the indirect costs of wasted time. Operational costs reduce a lot when your people become more remote, and no longer need dedicated office space. Office space becomes re-purposed for value-added activities, reduced and sublet, or disposed of.
Modern tools accelerate time-to-market by helping research, development, testing and delivery of new products and services. Those tools help employees execute business processes and functions efficiently and enable process automation to take away many of the repetitive steps.
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